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Recent posts by Nolan Nawrocki
1 (33) New England Patriots (from Carolina): CB Ras-I Dowling, Virginia
He went a pick before Chris Cook did a year ago to the Vikings, and Dowling stood out a year ago more than Cook did on tape. He could've been considered in the first round had he been able to stay healthy. A big concern in the pros is whether he can stay healthy, but if he does, he has the length and ball skills to match up with big receivers and fits very well in the Pats' defense.
2 (34) Buffalo Bills: CB Aaron Williams, Texas
Chan Gailey knows how to make the offense work and can get by with a smart system quarterback like Ryan Fitzpatrick. What the Bills needed most to address was their defense, and they've done that with their first two picks. Injuries depleted depth at the CB position for the Bills last season and the Bills stand to lose Donte Whitner in free agency. With Williams, the Bills now have a versatile cover man who can help in the slot and should make an immediate impact.
3 (35) Cincinnati Bengals: QB Andy Dalton, TCU
With the uncertainty surrounding Carson Palmer's trade demands, the Bengals needed insurance at the QB position. Dalton perfectly fits Jay Gruden's offense — he's a very smart, quick-triggered West Coast passer who could give the Bengals an entirely new offensive look combining with WR A.J. Green. He lacks great arm strength and physical stature but he should be able to learn Gruden's offense very quickly and could be baptized by fire.
4 (36) San Francisco 49ers (from Denver): QB Colin Kaepernick, Nevada
Kaepernick has been a four-year starter and has one of the strongest arms in the draft. He's extremely driven, motivated and determined to succeed although he's still somewhat raw coming from a Pistol-shotgun offense. He has all the physical tools to become an NFL starter in time and will benefit greatly from the tutelage of Jim Harbaugh. His intelligence and competitiveness could make him a star in the Bay Area, especially if he is given a year to develop. Alex Smith is expected to return and allow that to happen.
5 (37) Cleveland Browns: DE Jabaal Sheard, Pittsburgh
The Browns' defensive line was their greatest area of need and they addressed it well with their first two picks, adding NT Phil Taylor and Sheard. He really stood out as a senior and has great arm length, athletic ability and quickness. He played hurt most of the season and his medical status concerned some teams with an elbow injury that might require further surgery. However, he is very tough and has shown he will play with pain. Expect him to see immediate action.
6 (38) Arizona Cardinals: RB Ryan Williams, Virginia Tech
The Cardinals' ground game ranked dead last in the league last year and Beanie Wells and Tim Hightower both have been disappointing. In Williams, the Cardinals get a very instinctive, hard-charging, highly competitive runner who brings the type of attitude that Ken Whisenhunt desires in his smashmouth offense. Williams played through injuries last season and didn't produce the way he is capable, otherwise he would have received looks in the first round.
7 (39) Tennessee Titans: OLB Akeem Ayers, UCLA
Ayers was in consideration at the back of the first round by some teams and offers solid value at this spot. He played too undisciplined in college and had a tendency to freelance too much but he clearly possesses the playmaking ability to contend for a starting job right away and could unseat Gerald McRath making a living playing over the tight end.
8 (40) Dallas Cowboys: OLB Bruce Carter, North Carolina
The Cowboys clearly recognized the immense talent of Carter and have a loaded roster that makes it easier to take a chance on a player who may have to start the season on the physically unable to perform list. He's coming off a late-season ACL injury and wasn't able to work out before the draft. However, he could bring great dividends once he fully recovers. He's an excellent special-teams player and could fill a role as a nickel ’backer, having better coverage skills than any linebacker in the draft as a converted safety. He also possesses excellent take-off speed rushing and might be able to bring value with his hand on the ground.
9 (41) Washington Redskins: DL Jarvis Jenkins, Clemson
Few would have thought that Jenkins would have been drafted before his much more publicized teammate Da'Quan Bowers. However, Bowers' injury status concerned a lot of teams. Jenkins has the size and movement skills desired in the Redskins' three-man front and could potentially help at any position.
10 (42) Houston Texans: OLB Brooks Reed, Arizona
The Texans' defensive front seven needed to be upgraded for new defensive coordinator Wade Phillips to successfully transition from a 4-3 to a 3-4 defense. After landing J.J. Watt in the first round, GM Rick Smith followed up with a very tough-minded, physical edge-setter in Reed, who will be plugged in immediately. DeMeco Ryans and Brian Cushing could form one of the best ILB tandems in the league. Adding Reed gives the Texans the same type of fiery attitude on the edge that Ryans and Cushing bring to the interior. It's not a flashy pick but it's safe. This was a second low-risk, high-character pick by Smith that gives the defense the discipline it was lacking last season.
11 (43) Minnesota Vikings: TE Kyle Rudolph, Notre Dame
Giving Christian Ponder a safe, reliable target like Rudolph was a very wise move by VP of player personnel Rick Spielman. Visanthe Shiancoe and Jim Kleinsasser are both on the wrong side of 30 and the Vikings needed to add an infusion of youth to the position. Rudolph could become Ponder's favorite target in Bill Musgrave's West Coast offense. He's a solid all-around player whose intangibles and toughness really stood out last season when played through a hamstring injury until it tore off the bone.
12 (44) Detroit Lions: WR Titus Young, Boise State
Jim Schwartz has been seeking explosion on both sides of the ball, and in Young he lands an explosive receiver. The two greatest concerns about Young are his sinewy, narrow frame and corresponding durability and his overall immaturity. He turned off a lot of teams in the interview process and his lack of attention to detail could drive his position coach crazy. He also might be able to supplement Stefan Logan in the return game.
13 (45) Denver Broncos (from San Francisco): FS Rahim Moore, UCLA
Starting FS Brian Dawkins is 37 years old and backup Darcel McBath has not lived up to his second-round draft status. John Fox is clearly concentrating on overhauling his defense and added some range to his secondary with this selection. Moore played much better as a sophomore than he did as a junior and still needs to develop in the weight room and mature. However, in a very thin safety class, the Broncos were forced to reach for him. Moore graded out more like a third-round pick. He could be thrust into the lineup readily and might even see time as a cornerback in the future.
14 (46) Denver Broncos (from Miami): OL Orlando Franklin, Miami (Fla.)
John Fox prefers a physical offensive line, a departure from the more finesse units that Mike Shanahan and Josh McDaniels previously employed. Franklin brings more physicality to the ground game and could help pave the way for RB Knowshon Moreno. ORT Ryan Harris could potentially depart in free agency and the Broncos may have signalled their plans with Harris likely to command a big payday. Franklin plays with an ornery temperament and could help at either right tackle or guard. There were some concerns about his immaturity and average pro-day performance, where he appeared very stiff.
15 (47) St. Louis Rams: TE Lance Kendricks, Wisconsin
The Rams continue to support the development of QB Sam Bradford. Value and need met at this pick with the Rams lacking a standout at the TE position. Kendricks has great hands, stretch-the-seam ability and is more competitive as a blocker than his 243-pound frame would indicate. He should factor readily in Josh McDaniels' offense and could provide a spark the same way Aaron Hernandez did for the Patriots last season.
16 (48) Oakland Raiders: C Stefen Wisniewski, Penn State
Al Davis stayed in the family with this pick as Stefen's uncle, Steve, was recently hired as Raiders offensive line coach after a storied career with the team. Expect Wisniewski to line up as a center with Samson Satele struggling last season and hitting free agency. Wisniewski's football intelligence, understanding of angles and work ethic could allow him to start from Day One.
17 (49) Indianapolis Colts (from Jacksonville through Washington): OT Ben Ijalana, Villanova
Bill Polian showed how little he thinks of his current offensive line, addressing the line with his first two picks. Anthony Castonzo and Ijalana are two smart, versatile pass protectors with outstanding work habits. Ijalana was a four-year starter who brings much more size to an underpowered Colts offensive line and could help improve the 29th-ranked running game. Ryan Diem is coming off a down year and has begun to show his age. Ijalana could begin his career at guard and be groomed to kick outside to replace Diem.
18 (50) San Diego Chargers: FS Marcus Gilchrist, Clemson
With Eric Weddle stlll unsigned, A.J. Smith now has some leverage to re-sign him. The Chargers' most glaring need that has kept them from advancing in the playoffs has been a back-half safety. They added Bob Sanders and took a step toward improving that deficiency with the addition of Gilchrist, who lined up at both cornerback and safety in college. He possesses the intelligence, football character and competitiveness that Smith desires.
19 (51) Tampa Bay Buccaneers: DE Da'Quan Bowers, Clemson
GM Mark Dominik needed to add more pressure on the edges of his defense and landed two first-round talents with medical risks with his first two picks. Raheem Morris is mimicking the formula that worked for his former mentor, Rod Marinelli, in Chicago. adding power and strength to collapse the corners. If Bowers can recover fully, the Buccaneers could have a steal with this pick. Bowers emerged as a dominant force as a junior. Questions about why the light turned on this past season, whether his motivation would be sapped with a big payday and very serious medical concerns pushed him down the draft board. Dominik has been one of the best recognizing value.
20 (52) New York Giants: DT Marvin Austin, North Carolina
With Barry Cofield likely to command too much interest on the free-agent market, the Giants found an explosive penetrator who could replace him. Austin possesses clear first-round athletic traits and explosive inside-rush ability. He didn't play as a senior for violating NCAA regulations and he possesses very marginal football character. However, Tom Coughlin does an excellent job getting the most out of his players, and if he can keep Austin in line, the Giants could come away with a very disruptive interior force well-suited for Perry Fewell's defense.
21 (53) Chicago Bears (from Indianapolis through Washington): DT Stephen Paea, Oregon State
The Bears cut DT Tommie Harris this offseason and needed to find a three-technique tackle to replace him. They filled their two most pressing needs with their first two picks, improving both lines. Paea possesses both strength and quickness and could help at either interior position for the Bears. He's capable of manning the nose or playing in gaps, where he is more comfortable. Rod Marinelli should be able to light a fire underneath him.
22 (54) Philadelphia Eagles: SS Jaiquawn Jarrett, Temple
Injuries derailed the Eagles' secondary a year ago and they clearly have a number of holes to fill at safety and cornerback. Jarrett might not look the part or test very well in shorts but on the field all he seems to do is show up at the ball. He has great football-playing instincts and should immediately factor as an in-the-box safety. He could become free agent Quintin Mikell's replacement.
23 (55) Kansas City Chiefs: C Rodney Hudson, Florida State
Casey Wiegmann is 37 years old and unsigned and the Chiefs had a glaring need at the center position. Hudson lined up at guard in college but has taken snaps at center and projects to the position for the Chiefs. He's a very technically sound, extremely football-smart and disciplined performer who can plug and play. He could fill the vacancy at center for the next 12 years.
24 (56) New England Patriots (from New Orleans): RB Shane Vereen, California
The Patriots got by with a RB-by-committee a year ago but Kevin Faulk, Fred Taylor and Sammy Morris all are injury-prone, aging free agents who might not return. Vereen can be a solid complement to BenJarvus Green-Ellis. He is an extremely smart, grounded one-cut runner who will fill a niche role for the Patriots.
25 (57) Detroit Lions (from Seattle): RB Mikel Leshoure, Illinois
The Lions needed a workhorse to complement Jahvid Best with Kevin Smith not getting the job done. Leshoure possesses first-round physical traits and worked out as well as any running back at the Combine. However, much of his production was blocked for him, came against inferior competition late in the season and his eyes, instincts and competitiveness remain concerns that could affect his development in the pros.
26 (58) Baltimore Ravens: WR Torrey Smith, Maryland
Derrick Mason is 37 years old and has shown signs of wearing down, and the Ravens needed a vertical threat who could take the top off a defense and open up the short passing game for Anquan Boldin. Smith has the top-end speed to keep defenses honest. He hails from the area and is a true success story that should quickly become a fan favorite for the Ravens.
27 (59) Cleveland Browns (from Atlanta): WR Greg Little, North Carolina
The Browns lack a No. 1 receiver on their roster and landed a first-round type of talent in Little. He is a big, physical West Coast receiver who perfectly fits the plans that Mike Holmgren has for Pat Shurmur's West Coast offense. He did not play last season after violating NCAA regulations and considerable questions about his character pushed him down to the back of the second round. Holmgren has had some success with troubled talent and likely will give Little extra attention.
28 (60) Houston Texans (from New England): CB Brandon Harris, Miami (Fla.)
Harris fits the mold that the Texans seek in their cornerbacks — aggressive and physical. He measured a half-inch short of 5-foot-10, the benchmark by which many teams feel comfortable selecting cornerbacks in the first round. He slipped in this draft because he was regarded as a nickel defender. However, he plays bigger than his size, is football-smart and instinctive and could become an instant contributor in a struggling secondary.
29 (61) San Diego Chargers (from N.Y. Jets): ILB Jonas Mouton, Michigan
This is the first "wow" pick of the draft. Mouton is a converted safety who graded out in the sixth round. He does not play with much physicality and likely was drafted to help fill the Chargers' shortcomings in their nickel defense. GM A.J. Smith reached big time to fill a need pick with ILBs Kevin Burnett and Stephen Cooper both unsigned and potentially not returning.
30 (62) Miami Dolphins (from Chicago through Washington): RB Daniel Thomas, Kansas State
Ricky Williams and Ronnie Brown both might not be back next season and the Dolphins had a very glaring need for a big back. Thomas carried the offense at K-State and can be expected to handle a similar workload out of the gate for a run-first offense that completed its offensive line with the selection of Mike Pouncey in the first round.
31 (63) Pittsburgh Steelers: OT Marcus Gilbert, Florida
Director of football operations Kevin Colbert made both lines priorities with his first two picks, continuing to build the team inside-out. The offensive line was a sore spot last season, derailed by injuries — Willie Colon is coming off a serious Achilles injury — and ORT Flozell Adams is 35. Gilbert could team with fellow Florida product Max Starks and help secure the pocket for Ben Roethlisberger. He's a massive-framed big body that fits well with the Steelers' style.
32 (64) Green Bay Packers: WR Randall Cobb, Kentucky
James Jones is a free agent and Donald Driver is 36 years old. The Packers were able to beat the Steelers because of their dynamic receiving corps. Cobb could turn out to be an excellent value at the back of the second round, much like Greg Jennings was back in 2006. Cobb is very instinctive, has a great feel for the game and plays much bigger than his size. Aaron Rodgers should be very pleased with the Packers' first two selections.
Nolan Nawrocki will provide observations on the picks in the final four rounds Saturday, and he'll have grades for each team's draft late Sunday.